Network management software

Introduction

You could count your company’s Power Macs on your fingers and install system software manually on each user’s computer – or you could invest in a tool that does those things for you. Netopia’s netOctopus 3.0 and Wave Research’s FileWave Enterprise Edition 3.2 offer a simpler way to deliver software over a network and maintain a database of hardware and software assets for Mac and PC configurations alike. netOctopus is most useful when creating configuration reports and monitoring software use, although its distribution component can’t manage complex software packages. FileWave, though marred by high deployment costs, shines as a software-delivery system that can move complex combinations of applications, system files, and documents onto client workstations. netOctopus is appealingly simple to set up and use, consisting of an administrative application and a client control panel for each Mac or PC. FileWave’s client software is similar, but divides its software-distribution and asset-management functions among several server tools and administrative applications. To distribute software with FileWave, you create file-sets that reside on the repository server in a proprietary format. The easiest way to create file-sets is to use FileWave to scan the contents of a hard disk connected to the administrator’s Mac, and install the software you’re distributing via FileWave on the same disk. FileWave builds a package based on the files you have modified or added since taking the “before” snapshot. netOctopus uses a much simpler arrangement, in which you distribute files or folders individually on Macs, as well as PCs. The trade-off: you can’t install applications, extensions, and preferences simultaneously, as you can with FileWave. Asset tracking
Mac managers may recognize FileWave’s Asset Trustee database as a remnant of TechWorks’ long-dead Asset Manager. With an ACI 4th Dimension database as its engine, Asset Trustee inventories computer hardware and software, right down to the amount of VRAM installed, and – if you’re inclined to enter it – the depreciation method used to pay for each system. Wave Research added a scanning function to the database, making it possible to track changes to hardware and software as they occur and to combine static data with dynamic information. (FileWave is also available without Asset Trustee). The asset-management interface in netOctopus is oriented less to printing reports and tracking inventory than toward taking live snapshots of the network and managing software use. Templates and AppleScripts offer a quick look at common configuration settings for a group of systems. This is useful if you want to determine whether your systems are capable of accepting a Mac OS upgrade or have properly configured IP addresses. Both packages allow you to export data. netOctopus includes an HTML export feature, although FileWave goes one better, by building in Web-server software that displays asset reports in HTML. And both include substantial printed documentation, though FileWave’s manual is disjointed and omits important information.
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